Preparing for Family Law Practice

The Family Law & Policy Program enjoys a largely customizable and well-encompassing curriculum. A student will be exposed a wide variety of topics, from the mandatory coursework like Advocacy and Legal Research to unique disciplines such as Immigration, Child and Elder Law, and branches of Health Law focusing on violence in children’s lives. To see a complete list of course offerings, click here.

This course work pairs with well-established opportunities to do hands-on work, including through clinics working on behalf of families and children, its externships with family law judges or organizations, access to Chicago firms during the 3L year through the Chicago Program, and the College of Law’s many journals and trial team.

By its very nature, family law practice requires attorneys to work with other professionals. This might include mental health professionals who assist with evaluating custody arrangements for children after the parents break up or working with finance experts to value any property being divided. 

One innovative aspect of the Family Law & Policy Program is joint classes with the College of Law and College of Medicine who consider difficult legal and ethical quandaries in teams composed of students across the professions. 


Study across the professions

In Spring of 2019, the College of Law launched joint medical school and law school classes. These classes mark the beginning of a new and exciting relationship between the College of Law and the new College of Medicine. This new venture draws on resources and faculty at both colleges to foster discussions at the intersection of law and medical ethics, with a particular focus on children and parental rights. Law school students enrolled in the courses Children’s Health and Violence and Health Law and Bioethics engage in tough but riveting conversations with medical school students on some of the thorniest questions facing medicine and society today:

  • When is Care Futile? (Friday, Mar. 29, 2019)

  • When is Asking a Medical Professional to Perform a Service a Bridge Too Far? (Friday, Apr. 19, 2019)

The joint exploration will help law students gain an understanding of the factual considerations that other professionals consider when confronting new, uncharted territory. The joint classes are designed to teach students how to engage other professionals when resolving difficult ethical and legal questions. Similarly, the perspectives our law students bring to these questions helps medical students to widen their lens regarding the ethics of novel practices, like the troubling standardized pelvic exams performed for teaching purposes on unconscious women admitted for surgery, without their knowledge or consent.

These classes begin with vignettes drawn from real life ethical and legal concerns. To see one of these discussions, click here.


Hands-On Experience

Students who come to the University of Illinois College Law can engage in many experiential learning activities to prepare for a career in Family Law. If a student is interested in Family Law litigation, the following experiential learning activities are available to foster a student’s litigation skills:

  • Trial Advocacy

  • Advanced Trial Advocacy

  • Trial Team

An important aspect of family law practice might include drafting Contracts or writing Motions or Memorandums. Students can gain legal writing and research skills, that are essential to family law practice by participating in the College of Law’s specialty journals:

  • Elder Law Journal

  • Illinois Law Review

  • Journal of Law, Technology, and Policy

Lastly, students can gain practical experience that translate to real-life practice through a number of experiential opportunities at the College of Law:

  • The Chicago Program

  • Family Advocacy Clinic

  • Veteran’s Legal Clinic

    • Child Support

    • Enforcement Civil Custody

    • Divorce

  • The Externship Program, which includes:

    • U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; and

    • Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.